Travelling to a foreign country can be a fantastic experience, but it’s important to remember that there are certain risks involved. If you’re not familiar with the area and its customs, you could find yourself in a dangerous situation.
Here’s how to travel safely when exploring a foreign country.
Do some research ahead of time
Before you even start packing your bags, it’s important to do some research about the country you’ll be visiting. Find out as much as you can about the culture, customs, and laws of the place you’re going. This will help you avoid any potential problems or uncomfortable situations.
If possible, try to speak with someone who has already been to the country you’re visiting. They can give you first-hand advice about what to expect and how to stay safe.
Some things to really think about are how the local culture views children, women, and the LGBT community. For example, in Australia, while it’s definitely not perfect, the culture is quite open for LGBT people and women are generally pretty safe. So travelling to places where women’s movements are more restricted or same-sex couples are not accepted can be a shock. On the flip side, we’ve noticed children are much more noticed and even revered in some parts of Asia. This is so lovely, but can also be overwhelming for little ones (and parents!) when they’re not used to strangers talking to them or touching them.
Learn the basics of the local language
One of the best ways to stay safe in a foreign country is to learn at least some of the local language. This will help you communicate with people and get around more easily.
Learning local phrases can also be helpful in an emergency situation. There are plenty of resources available for learning languages, so there’s no excuse not to at least try. Even if you only know a few key phrases, it could make all the difference.
I have Duolingo on my phone and I love learning some phrases in the lead up to a trip. It gets us all so excited for our travels!
Plan your transportation
Before you travel to a foreign country, it’s essential to make sure you have a plan for transportation.
If you’re taking public transportation, familiarize yourself with the system ahead of time, so you know how to get where you need to go. Especially if maps and directions aren’t in English! (For example, navigating subways in Paris, Barcelona, and Tokyo have been interesting experiences!)
Buses and private transfers can be a great option too. However, not all operators are the same. Seek out reviews and recommendations before you go to make sure your operator is safe and reputable.
If you’re renting a car, be sure to research the local driving laws and regulations. Are you confident driving on the right side of the road, if where you live drives on the left? Are you comfortable with more traffic than you’re used to? When we hired a car in Langkawi, this was a big concern for us – we didn’t know what to expect driving in Malaysia! However, travelling in Western Australia, Perth car rental is a totally different experience. We love hiring cars to travel with kids, as they can nap on longer drives. Always make sure your hire car company has child restraints available too.
In some countries, it’s also necessary to have an international driver’s license. Here in Australia, that means visiting your local RAA/RACV or equivalent to get them to issue the international driving permit. We always err on the side of caution and make sure we have this no matter where we go – you don’t want to be caught without it.
Another point if you’re thinking about hiring a car: make sure your travel insurance covers any car rental excess, because these can be astronomical!
Be aware of your surroundings
When you’re in a foreign country, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings. This means being alert and paying attention to the people and things around you.
Some places are rife with pickpocketing and othe rpetty crimes, and the tactics of thieves can be quite sophisticated! Be especially wary in crowded places, and with people bumping into you or touching you in any way.
If you’re unfamiliar with an area, it’s best to avoid walking alone at night, especially in dimly lit places.
It’s also a good idea to carry a map with you so you can orient yourself if you get lost. However, I always find having a small, discreet pocket map best, and finding shelter before checking it. It’s not always the safest option to be an obviously lost tourist!
Know your limits
When you’re traveling, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and push your boundaries. However, it’s essential to know your limits and not take any unnecessary risks.
This is especially true when it comes to alcohol. It’s best to stick with drinks you are familiar with and avoid anything that looks or smells suspicious. In general, it’s always a good idea to be more cautious when you’re in a foreign country. I’ve definitely been in some tricky situations in this regard, which is probably why I feel most safe traveling with my husband.
Following these simple tips can help ensure that your trip is safe and enjoyable. Remember, research is key when traveling to a new place. The more you know about the country and its customs, the better prepared you’ll be for anything that comes your way, and if you travel safely, you’ll always have more fun.